Monday, March 26, 2007


I just finished Linda Nagata's book Memory. I don't normally blog about books, which is probably a mistake, but anyway, it should be taken as some kind of indication that I felt like mentioning her book here. I won't claim that the book will change your life, but what I found remarkable about it was how nicely it managed to merge the two genres of fantasy fiction and cyberpunk into an organic whole. It felt a lot like reading the Lord of the Rings. I don't mean it's equivalent to the Lord of the Rings - it's not - but it has that same mythic quality. The language is lovely. The characters are thoughtful, and believable. The setting is alien, in a very interesting way - it's a place you might well want to visit, even though it's rather dangerous.

Anyway, now when you go read it you'll have high expectations and you'll hate it, but at least Linda will have gotten some multiplier on the sale she made to me, so my work as an appreciative fan is done.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I don't know if this was an intentional pun or not, but I'm sitting in a V6 operations presentation at IETF right now, and this was the last bullet item on the slide. I like this word much better than wordsmithing, because it tells it like it is - usually too much is said, rather than too little, and so the best wordsmithing probably is wordsmiting. Or maybe I just like delightfully accidental typo-generated puns. Yes, it's probably that.

Friday, March 02, 2007

In God We Trust...

There's a rumor going around the internet that the new $1 coin is evil, because it's the first piece of American currency not to bear the words "In God We Trust" somewhere on it. This would be funny if it weren't so sinister. Why?

Well, first of all, "In God We Trust" is in fact on the coin, around the edge, where I suspect it will be very noticeable, because it'll be the only U.S. coin in production with anything stamped on its edge. So the rumor is completely false.

Now, why is someone spreading false rumors on the internet? I'll give you two explanations; both are sinister, in different ways. In the geek world, we have this thing called a denial of service (DoS) attack. This rumor about the new dollar coin is a DoS attack.

What's that, you ask? A DoS attack is an attack where the attacker isn't trying to get into your computer - they're just trying to prevent it from working, so that you can't use it, or more frequently, your customers can't use it. You know you're suffering a DoS attack when your web site is having trouble keeping up with a load that's several thousand times higher than any load it's ever before experienced.

People do DoS attacks for a variety of reasons. One is extortion: you pay me, and I stop DoSing you. Another is politics: I think you're a jerk, so I'm going to take your site down for a while and make you suffer. Actually, I think in a lot of cases when DoS attacks happen to jerks (e.g., the RIAA), the reason is not political - it's that nobody gets angry when the RIAA gets DoS'd, because they seem to deserve it. So you can test and/or demo your DoS capabilities on them with relative impunity - nobody's going to look for you very hard.

So how is an internet rumor a DoS attack? It's a DoS attack because we human beings have limited attention. We simply can't take every opportunity to pay attention to something, because there aren't enough hours in the day to pay attention to everything to which we could pay attention. If you can generate enough noise, in the form of rumors and disinformation, you can completely distract a person from accomplishing anything.

So why would someone DoS the Christians of the United States? To take their attention away from the places it should be focused. What are the teachings of Christ? Love God with all your heart. Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. What you do to the least of your brothers, you do to Me (to God). I think that is the key teaching.

What do people who practice these teachings do? They pay attention to what is going on in the world. To real things that are happening. And they try to make the world a better place. And they trust in God, which is to say they don't waste mental energy on attachment to outcomes. True Christians are a force for reform, for making the world a better place.

So what if you don't want reform? What if you don't want scrutiny? What if you want to attack a Christian's neighbor? Then you'd better figure out a way to keep that Christian busy, so that they don't notice what you're doing, because if they do notice, they will feel duty bound to stop you. So you engage in DoS attacks that are specifically targeted at Christians - targeted at getting them to waste time and mental energy trying to defend something like "In God We Trust" on a coin that already bears that saying.

I see a huge number of these DoS attacks against Christians. They fly by in my spam all the time. I don't know what evil schemer out there is sending them - it's quite mysterious. But I think it would be wrong to think of them as an accident. The world needs Christians to be awake and aware, paying attention to the wrong that is done in the world and not wasting their time on things like dollar coins and courthouses.

Now, the other way to look at this is the karmic perspective. I am ashamed to say that when I hear about an organization like the RIAA suffering a DoS attack, I feel a moment of happiness, because someone I think badly of is suffering. And that is the karmic cause to see people I think could be doing good in the world suffering brutally from attacks on their attention. If I want to see those attacks stop, I need to make a personal, serious effort to stop rejoicing when I see people I *don't* like suffer from being attacked.

Which is easier said than done, but probably effort well spent.